Let’s start with praise for the idea of domino habits – one habit creates a chain reaction of better behaviours which lead to a better life. For me, it’s been yoga.

I was nearly 30 old before I ever did any kind of yoga. I was living in London at the time and was well and truly into an exercise-averse adulthood. I can’t remember now what it was that attracted me to the yoga studio – I walked past it every day on the way home from the train in one of the lesser known suburbs of South East London, Deptford, as it was being set up. The building was beautiful-that surely must have helped. When it opened its doors, I became one of the first students. The teacher was Glenys Shepherd, a strikingly attractive 50-year old who looked almost no older than I was at the time, and had begun Iyengar yoga with scoliosis that had initially made some poses almost impossible for her to get into. Yoga had transformed her body so she now had a straight spine and exuded wellbeing. To say she was an Iyengar enthusiast was a vast understatement. I learned all the poses so well, and that excellent foundational knowledge has stayed with me. Thanks to the internet, I can see that the yoga studio is still there although Glenys has finally given up teaching (although she is preserved for posterity on Vimeo!)

When I moved to Greece to teach English as a foreign language two years later, I took yoga with me, and it saved me from the horror that is an early teaching career. When another two years passed and I found myself back in Perth and pregnant,  pregnancy yoga provided the perfect foundation for a wonderful experience birthing my daughter.

And then, as with so many things that require spare cash and time, it fell by the wayside in the early parenting years. In fact, my daughter was well into high school before I took yoga up again in earnest. I had had one try at Iyengar again and knew it was not for me, when my niece recommended her vinyasa flow yoga class at Momentum Coaching and Yoga. I have featured a photo of my current yoga teacher Natalie Snooke who established this yoga studio. And no, Nat doesn’t know I’m writing this and there are zero kickbacks for me. I think it’s good to acknowledge those who have really helped us on our way to a better life.

What changed everything for me was doing the 21 Day Yoga Challenges that she offers. The first year I was a student, Nat posted it on Facebook and I clicked that I was going and she rather uncertainly private messaged me. My practice had been patchy at best, and I had to come clean and say it was a Facebook yes, not a real yes. The next year my practice was more consistent and I took the 21 Day Yoga Challenge in earnest. You commit to doing either a class (classes are unlimited for this period) or to practice at home -in which case you text that you have done your practice. You get a star on a chart that is displayed at the Yoga studio for every day’s practice. I will do almost anything for a gold star, and all of a sudden, I could make yoga classes which previously had been too hard to fit in with my demanding job. Having unlimited access to classes also removed the cost barrier and the challenge provided the impetus.

But what I learned from this, and the subsequent 21 Day Yoga Challenges that I’ve done, is that the actual purpose of the Challenge is for you to develop your home practice. And that is the domino habit that I think has changed everything for me as a human being. I use the Yoga Download site to practice at home, and I can take yoga anyway, so when I go away for work or holidays, I take my yoga mat and keep up the regular practice.

Once, I wanted to do Uttanasana with straight legs (the pose where you bend forward as per this image) I have very tight hamstrings. Now, I’ve abandoned that ambition. What’s much more important is turning up on the mat, day after day and giving yourself that wonderful experience of yoga, bent legs and all.

And every time you come back to yoga, it’s always there, waiting for you just like Glenys told me it would be.

habits of the heartIn mid-October, I was lucky enough to attend a retreat which meant I had a whole weekend to myself, no chores,  and a chance to connect with a like-minded group of people.  Most of them I hadn’t met prior to the Retreat, but true Perth-style, managed to work out I was connected to most of them in some way or other.

The theme of the Retreat was “Habits of the Heart” and reflects the work of Parker J Palmer, who I hadn’t really heard of before the Retreat;

“Habits of the heart” are deeply ingrained ways of seeing, being and responding to life that involve our minds, our emotions, our self-images, our concepts of meaning and purpose in life. I believe that these five taken together are critical to sustaining a democracy”

Most of us who attended the Retreat are involved in social change in one way or another; through managing not for profits, being in politics, helping managers and organisations work in a functional and healthy way, through living our own lives with some consciousness of what we think and how we want to behave.

There are five habits of the human heart:

1. Understanding we are all in this together

2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness”

3.  An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways

4.  A sense of personal voice

5. A capacity to create community

I am not 100% certain that I was holding the tension of last night’s discussion with darling husband in life-giving ways. In fact it felt a little more like the red mist may soon have been coming down if I didn’t remove myself from the vicinity to think things through.

It is just possible that my restless, reforming spirit looks at the world with a reformist’s eye, itching to roll up my sleeves and get involved actively in making change.  And accordingly, as I create what I see, I see opportunities for improvements everywhere 🙂  It is in fact possible that everything is unfolding just as it should.

But does that mean we stand by and let people go under that might have been saved with a helping hand?  Does that mean that we just maintain an “I’m all right Jack, pull the ladder up” attitude?  I think no!  and I don’t think waiting for the government to do things is a sensible idea.  I believe we are all creating our own lives and by extension the lives of our communities.

So, I guess that means I am going to carry on being quite busy.  And occasionally a little bit snappy in marital conversations relating to social justice.